A short, and late post this week, general chaos in my life is to blame. Unfortunately the busy sort, not the simply disorganised sort.
In my previous post I talked about strengthening the connections between mathematics and other subjects. This was underlined in a rather scary manner by the excellent website www.eigenfactor.org. This is an excellent site applying some of what we know of network theory, and search systems similar to Google’s to academic journals. It also has maps which show how strongly linked subjects are together by publication. I have not had time to look at it in detail but I suspect that this is by careful use of eigenvalues and vectors (the name of the site does give it away somewhat). For their standard coefficient mathematics is only linked to four subjects: Physics, Fluid mechanics, “Probability and Statistics” and Computer Science. By the same method, Physics is linked to 19 subjects, Chemistry to 7, and Computer Science to 10.
Also consider the connections that are not there, there are only very weak links to Engineering and almost none to Biology and Economics. Even Operation Research and Control Theory, that are considered part of a mathematics course only have very weak links.
Anyway the website is interesting to play with and gives a far more robust method to study the topography of academia than other methods (such as the infamous impact factor). I hope the authors continue their work and after all, this is itself an interesting application of mathematics!
A very interesting website.
Interdisciplinary work, I am convinced, is the future. There has been way too much specialization in academia since the 1950’s. I suspect that this may have been a necessary pre-development.
Interdisciplinarity is slightly tricky as different people mean different things by it. Personally I do believe in experts. To be an expert in something naturally creates a narrow focus. However experts should have the skills to communicate with others and respect other areas of expertise. This is particularly true between the Natural and Human/Social sciences as there is often a lack of respect on both sides.